Hematological malignancies are the types of cancer that affect blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. As the three are intimately connected through the immune system, a disease affecting one of the three will often affect the others as well: although lymphoma is technically a disease of the lymph nodes, it often spreads to the bone marrow, affecting the blood and occasionally producing a paraprotein.
While uncommon in solid tumors, chromosomal translocations are a common cause of these diseases. This commonly leads to a different approach in diagnosis and treatment of hematological malignancies.
Hematological malignancies are malignant neoplasms ("cancer"), and they are generally treated by specialists in hematology and/or oncology. In some centers "Hematology/oncology" is a single subspecialty of internal medicine while in others they are considered separate divisions (there are also surgical and radiation oncologists). Not all hematological disorders are malignant ("cancerous"); these other blood conditions may also be managed by a hematologist.
Hematological malignancies may derive from either of the two major blood cell lineages: myeloid and lymphoid cell lines. The myeloid cell line normally produces granulocytes, erythrocytes, thrombocytes, macrophages and mast cells; the lymphoid cell line produces B, T, NK and plasma cells. Lymphomas, lymphocytic leukemias, and myeloma are from the lymphoid line, while acute and chronic myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative diseases are myeloid in origin.
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